Journal of the Unsung

Unsung

Being a True and Faithful Account of certain Events surrounding the Siege of an Unknown City, by the Forces of Darkness and the Hosts of Heaven in the War of Armageddon, as recounted to us in the Destroyed Journals of Jacob Galway, Heretic, Excommunicate and Soldier.

Nth day of the War:

I write these words in the dust in the knowledge that they shall be read by someone.

As to the nature of that reader, I cannot speculate. It may be the Lord, whose knowledge is said to be all encompassing, and will thus have known the words I now write long before He saw fit to create me. It may be the spies of His Adversary, who, though far from omniscient, infest this rude camp in such numbers that little must escape their notice. It may be that some other being, beyond my own experience and the hearsay of my mortal life has placed itself in watch over me. I believe I shall never know whom my words reach, but I know with absolute certainty that they shall reach someone.

I was, and remain, Jacob Galway, a sinner against God and the Church, a blasphemer and heretic, and for that, long have I languished as a prisoner of the Iron City. Now that the last trumpet has sounded and the final War begun, I find myself, like so very many others, quickening in my earthly remains, bound in servitude to the Inferno, 'til such time as it or Heaven may fall, and the faithful or the sinners shall claim everlasting mastery. My flesh is cold as the grave and my heart is still, though by some devilish magic the rot is kept from both. Or possibly rot no longer exists, the worldly order having been disrupted so greatly by the tribulations inflicted upon it by both sides of this conflict.

Around my grey and lifeless body hangs the ragged uniform of the 24101st Dis Grenadiers, into which I was cruelly pressed at the start of the War, and of which, through some quirk of demonic humour, I have lately assumed command as Colonel. My coat, rich though it is by the standards of the Infernal armies, is threadbare, the royal blue faded and marred with dried blood. My white breeches are torn and stained with dust, and the brass badges indicating my rank, while perhaps once clear and shining, have now turned a tarnished green. The iron chain which hangs cord-like from my right epaulette to the back of my left shoulder, a symbol of the home of the regiment and our slavery to the Lords of that Circle, is pitted and red with rust. My boots have cracked and the soles worn thin upon the march, and my tricorn hat is holed from bullets in a battle I no longer remember. In a bandolier upon my chest I wear the two pistols granted to me by virtue of my position, possibly the only elements of my uniform still in correct working order.

But you have seen all of this for yourself, as you now see me scratching these words into the dust with the tarnished sword I bear. You are no doubt watching me as I erase each word with my boot after it is written. Damned though I am, still it would not do for the wrong eyes to see what I am writing. Damned though I am, and perhaps we all are, still I would not bring further suffering on myself.

Outside my tent I hear fellow souls shifting. Behind my tent, no doubt, the great bombards are being brought forward, ready to belch destruction towards the walls of the City. Before me, my regiment will be waiting anxiously for me to emerge and give the order to form up and advance. I am waiting to receive the word from my own commander, the General whose iron will and vast armies have been tasked with taking the City in the name of the Adversary and the Inferno. I cannot remember how long we have been waiting, but I fear it shall not be much longer.

Soon the guns will sound and battle will be joined. In my more pious lifetime I may have asked God to help us all. As that is no longer an option, and I dare not raise my voice to call upon the Lords of Inferno for aid, I can only wait and write.

Soon we will do battle. Beyond that time I know not.

Nth day of the War, plus one:

At Preussers' suggestion I inspected my troops this morning.

But of course, you may not know of Preusser, who died at the age of twenty-three, fighting for an emperor in what he calls the Great War. This war was many years after my time, he assures me, and bears to him an uncommon similarity to the one in which we currently find ourselves embroiled. By the same trick of infernal fortune that placed me in my current office, he has been made my Lieutenant Colonel, and is now my most direct link to those poor souls under my command.

Preusser is a tall man, and heavily built. Whereas my uniform hangs limply from my frame, his is pulled taught across a massive chest and abdomen. He bears a slight moustache upon his lip and scars upon his cheek from duels lost long ago in Berlin. A bullet in some long-ago battle in this War hit his nose, and the remains of the dead flesh sit upon his face like some malicious, half-formed parasite clutching at a host.

Among an army of evil and malicious men, still Preusser remains outstanding for his cruelty and depravity. I know he is not from Dis, home of my regiment and of myself for many years, and I believe he hails from the deep Malbolges far into the Pit. Were I alive, I would most likely mislike the man intensely, but my dead heart is incapable of stirring my passions so after long, long years of torment by beings far more evil than he. So Preusser remains my second in command and the regiment functions smoothly.

He came to my tent shortly before dawn and confided in me his fears that our men are becoming undisciplined after so long waiting without a battle. Other commanders, he told me, have similar fears. He related to me how the 13482nd Grenadiers, encamped beside us, had been flogged to a man for their failure to properly humble themselves for a demonic Chaplain. And how all ninety regiments of Stygian Jaegers encamped here were made to stand at attention for a day and a night, after General Malagraster itself destroyed all the ranking officers of their third regiment, as punishment for their failure to have all troops ready for inspection when it rode by. By having our men perpetually ready to be inspected and found ready by our senior officers, he argued, we might win vital favour and be spared the suicidal duty of the first charge when battle was joined.

Demonic favour cannot be won, however, and Preusser would to well to learn this. There is no capacity for benevolence in the demon, only the malice and hate that has driven them since they were forced out of the Realm Above so very long ago. We poor damned infantrymen, with our torn uniforms and our rusted muskets, are so much cannon fodder, and one regiment is as good as another to be marched in front of Heaven's guns. Should they choose us, we will be destroyed, no matter how well our men are drilled and our boots polished.

Nonetheless, I gave my assent to his plan for our men to be assembled at dawn. Such an array of pitiful souls! I observed men cradling muskets in the stumps of ruined hands, trying to stand on crude wooden prostheses to replace long-lost limbs, or with ragged uniforms flapping emptily around holes carved out of their midsections. There is not one man in ten, I fear, who has not been subject to some form of maiming over the course of the War. Perhaps this parade will serve some purpose after all. If a demon were to inspect us now, we would surely draw some new, undamaged, recruits to replace those who will soon be unable to fight, or to move.

The men's discipline has not suffered noticeably. As Preusser and I strode between their ranks, all was silent. We may not be demons ourselves, but we inspire sufficient fear among them to compel a certain amount of loyalty. I find a much-needed comfort in this.

Behind us the great iron and brass bombards rested upon a hillside, each a dozen feet long and swarming with men and imps preparing fuses and rolling huge cannonballs into position. Before us I could see the walls of the city swarm with activity as their own cannon were made ready, and men and angels waited grimly for us to open fire.

They will not have to wait long, I fear.